THE NUMBER 4 JUSTICE
July 18, 2019
What's in a number? For phone numbers it's ten digits. Before calling areas had multiple area codes, we dialed just seven. I remember when Connecticut was entirely under the 203 area code. My dad had just started working in Hartford when 860 came out and his office number was the first 860 that we regularly dialed. Living in New Haven County we kept 203 at home. Decades before seven and ten digit phone numbers, people used two letters and five numbers. Landline phones were wired through local exchanges in groups of 10,000. That's why phone numbers from a certain area all had the same initial three digits (Northford had 484 because the Branford exchange had 48- numbers; East Haven was mostly 467; Middletown 343; etc.). People within exchanges at one point in time only needed to dial the last five (some college campuses other contained networks still do this; my landline number at BC was 6-0965 and we often used them because cell phone service wasn't great in many dorms). When calling another exchange, you would give an operator the name plus five digits or dial it yourself when operators were phased out. Each number on a phone dial represents three letters. The first two letters of the exchange name represented the first two digits of the phone number. For example, TV shows, which often use 555 phone numbers, would typically features KLondike-5 numbers. My mother grew up in East Haven with a 467 phone number that went by the exchange name HObart.
The phone alphabet continues with vanity numbers for advertising purposes. Remember 1-800-FLOWERS? Or 1-800-MATTRES ("Leave the last 's' off for savings)? I have a few phone numbers for my office. The main number, 691-6594, doesn't spell out anything. One of my alternate numbers, 626-2273 could also be written as 626-CASE. My direct extension is 584-7775. According to the AT&T's recommended exchange name list published in 1955, one of the suggested exchange name for 58- numbers is JUstice. The third digit is 4 so my first three digits are Justice 4. As for the three sevens and the five, that's just easy to remember. I did not pick this number because of the 584 but because of the 7775.
I always knew about alphabetical numbers because my parents told me when I asked why there were letters on the phone and also because I heard them in old TV shows and movies. I didn't think much about them for a while until I heard the Marvellettes' song "Beechwood 4-5789" on XM while driving home from Boston back in the fall. The song's protagonist has the number 234-5789. She might live in North Haven. The most famous song about a phone number is probably "867-5309." Interestingly it was recorded by Tommy Tutone and 86 is TO.
666 is the number of the beast. What's the number for justice? It's (203) 584-7775. You can call me up and have a case any old time.